Only a few months ago, San Diego State Aztecs were unranked and I was demanding respect as fan. Did the Associated Press, Coaches, and even the writers hear my calls? San Diego State University now ranks #7 in the entire country.
Steve Fisher and the Aztecs have earned this national ranking. It was not just because we demanded respect, but we showed the country we could keep winning. Currently the Aztecs are 17-1, with their only loss coming to the #1 Ranked Arizona Wildcats. The Mountain West conference is no where near as strong as it was last year (1st in RPI in 2012-13 to 10th in RPI 2013-14), and SDSU really only has Boise St. as a challenger. The Aztecs could run the table or come out with only a couple losses in conference play.
San Diego State’s defense is what makes it a dominant force. Steve Fisher has instilled stellar defensive play in his players over his tenure as the Aztec’s head coach.
Lets go by the numbers:
It all starts with rebounds. San Diego State ranks 13th in the country for rebounds per game. In college basketball rebounds can be the direct difference in a game. The Aztecs feature Josh Davis at center who boasts 11.6 rebounds per game which is ranked 3rd in the entire country. SDSU also ranks within the top 25 for offensive rebounds per game which is primarily due to the play of Josh Davis. San Diego St. is a team that lives and dies off of the defensive play, and needs easy points.
Let’s take a look at a little more defensive stats. Last week San Diego State led the country in Opponent FG%. After the last week of play, SDSU has dropped but still ranks #3 in the country with a 37.1% from the field. Last week SDSU also ranked in the top 5 for Opponent 3-point FG%, but now have taken a drastic drop to #20. Still an excellent ranking which justified their defensive prowess.
Another stat that has dropped over the last week, but is still excellent, is Opponent’s Points Per Game. SDSU was top-3 but now sits at #5 with an Opponent PPG at 57.6. They get after the ball and shut teams down. Obviously, Opponent FG% and PPG are correlated.
One of the most revealing stats is Team Defensive Efficiency. This stat is calculated by using the formula [field goals attempted – offensive rebounds + turnovers + (0.4 x free throws attempted) = total number of possessions for the season to calculate total team possessions]. This stat pretty much simplifies the combination of statistics that represent a teams defensive efficiency and production. SDSU currently ranks #3 in the country. Aztecs are actually ranked #1 in the country at home in this statistic which is easy to believe at Viejas Arena.
SDSU also features Skylar Spencer at the Power Forward position. Spencer is a blocking animal. He averages 2.53 blocks per game, which is tied for 39th in the country. Last year, he set a Mountain West Conference freshman record for blocks in a season. His talents were highlighted in the game at Allen Fieldhouse verse Kansas where Spencer had 6 blocks. He is still only a sophomore and has a ton of room for growth over the next 2 years.
Many of the east coast bias still does not give SDSU enough respect or credit. Kansas fans swear that their loss to SDSU was a fluke. They swear it was the worst game of the season for them. No fluke, Kansas fans. It was because SDSU is an elite defense. It is because they attack the rim, get after the ball, and play aggressive team defense.